All eyes turn to Chicago as Major League Baseball playoffs begin

For Chicago Cubs, heat of play-offs will be a sharp departure from breezy season

The Chicago Cubs have been Major League Baseball favorites since even before the season started, and all they've done during that time is increase the belief that they'll win their first title since 1908. And many of you probably know that the Cubs go into this week's playoffs with the best record in baseball.

Chicago leads the way with 12/5 championship odds, via It's that simple. Remember how the Cubs started off really hot, then in July, they hit a rough patch and started losing handfuls of games in a row?

The pressure is going to come, but it's clear that this is the Cubs team that can overcome that force. The Washington Nationals have 13/2 odds, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have 15/2 World Series odds ahead of their NLDS matchup. Young talent in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, new acquisition Daniel Murphy and a career year out of Wilson Ramos had led the Nationals on a blistering pace through most of the season. The Mets swept the Cubs in the National League Championship Series previous year and were defeated by the Giants in the NLCS in 1989. This is by far, the longest World Series drought in Major League Baseball. This is a huge treat for all of the National League baseball fans who were snubbed a team when the Dodgers and Giants left.

With the Cubs favored to win their first World Series since 1908, a storyline likely to attract a huge national TV audience, playoff ad sales are 30 percent ahead of a year ago, said Mark Evans, senior vice president of sales strategy for Fox Sports. Add to that the an incredible offense that scored 83 more runs than the next-best offense in the American League (Cleveland).

The American League Divisional Series will feature the Rangers taking on the victor of the wild card game and the Indians playing host to the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have been in position to make the playoffs for a while, but they officially clinched the American League East on Wednesday despite a loss to the New York Yankees. In 2014, he pitched a shutout at Pittsburgh to win the wild-card game. The final two spots belong to the Orioles and Blue Jays, as their powerhouse offenses look to slug it out in the one-game playoff on Tuesday. He started 18 games for the Giants, throwing 111 innings with a 3.00 ERA that season. 81-81 isn't a glamorous record by any means, but this might have benefited them in the long run.

Chicago and Washington are on a collision course to meet in the NLCS. Otherwise, game 4 will take place October 11, and game 5 is set for October 13 in Chicago. Before that, you have to go back to Pete Rose and Johnny Bench and that "Big Red Machine, " winning back-to-back titles in 1975 and '76 after seasons of 108-54 and 102-60 that no one else could match.

Numerous most-scrutinized decisions this month will involve how managers handle their pitching staffs. Use a starter like Cole Hamels on short rest, or maybe in emergency relief?

Cameron: Wow the desire to pick Big Papi is nearly too much to resist, but in the spirit of debate give me the Cleveland Indians. Previous year the Cubs eked into the playoffs, scored a win over the Pirates and upset the rival Cardinals to advance to the NLCS. Washington has two top starters in Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, but Chicago's rotation is the deepest in baseball with ERA leaders Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, in addition to 2015 Cy Young award victor Jake Arrieta. In March, Forbes magazine estimated the Cubs' generated revenue of $340 million previous year with operating income of about $51 million. But, they have been treading water all season. They had the best record in baseball prior to the All-Star break (57-33), and promptly followed that up with the second worst record from there on out (30-42).

They have the formula to produce a World Series victory from a pure numbers standpoint. And, the Red Sox's bullpen has been strong at the finish.



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